Is It Time to Go All In on the Cloud?

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

The Role of IT in the Cloud Era

The hybrid cloud remains the prevailing narrative throughout the enterprise industry at the moment, although it does leave quite a bit of wiggle room regarding how much of the data infrastructure will remain on private resources and how much will go public.

The ratio will be different for every enterprise, of course, depending on factors like workload requirements, security capabilities, costs and the like, but is it inevitable that the vast majority of data activity will take place on the public cloud with only the most critical applications kept within the firewall?

Already, a number of fairly sizable companies are on the fast-track to becoming primarily public cloud-dependent. Retailer Giant Eagle, which owns more than 400 establishments across the mid-Atlantic area, recently signed up with IBM’s SoftLayer IaaS platform to eventually take over everything from the supply chain to customer sales. The conversion will start with back-end functions like dev/test and disaster recovery before taking on full production IT operations, which Giant Eagle executives say will ultimately result in improved scalability, security, reliability and faster deployment of new applications.


This is all part of a longer-term trend in which the cloud giants will eventually subsume the vast bulk of enterprise infrastructure, says Adobe’s Matt Asay. As much as IT executives like the idea of running their own clouds, the economies of scale are too good to ignore as hyper-scale providers like Amazon, Google and Microsoft push server costs below anything the enterprise can achieve. When you are big enough to build your own infrastructure on spec, and then lease it out at ultra-low rates to businesses that lack the same kind of scale, it’s only a matter of time before simple economics begin to dictate where and how the data center infrastructure spend will be made.

This may be true if enterprise infrastructure were solely a matter of cost, says ZDNet’s Keith Townsend, but there are a host of other factors to consider when migrating to the cloud. Aside from reduced visibility and concerns over security, there is also the difference between the data center’s focus on resiliency vs. the cloud’s focus on redundancy; that is, the former’s aim is to prevent failure while the latter’s is to recover quickly. There are also differences in workload portability and resource consumption. So rather than simply porting enterprise applications over the cloud, the real transition won’t take place until the enterprise is ready to run the bulk of its workload on cloud-facing applications that can negotiate distributed infrastructure more effectively.

And eventually, says Teradata’s Paul Barsch, we get to the point at which the cloud no longer provides a real competitive advantage because it simply becomes the normal way to handle data. But this also poses the problem of “data gravity,” in which a cloud provider can be so cheap and the cost of bandwidth to move workloads to another provider so expensive that it’s just easier to leave it where it is, even if the provider starts offering second-rate applications and services. On private infrastructure, at least, organizations are able to build their own best-of-breed solutions – in essence, reserving the right to chart their own course through the digital economy rather than have choices dictated by a third-party provider.

It may seem that the cloud is largely a done deal for the enterprise, but clearly there are still many factors to consider regarding workloads, migration, performance and optimization. Going forward, the main question won’t be whether to embrace the cloud, but how fully, and for what purpose, specifically.

Surely, the costs will continue to drop in the cloud, but the real question is whether the functionality is really where it should be to meet enterprise data objectives.

Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.



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